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The Eastern Cape

This steep gravel road pass is located approximately 15 km South west of Matatiele in the Eastern Cape and rises 188 vertical meters over a distance of 4,8 km through rugged mountainous scenery. The average gradient is 1:12, with some of the steeper sections at 1:4. The pass is well designed and presents few dangers, except in wet or snow conditions.

 

This 15,6 km gravel pass runs on the North/South axis approximately paralell (and to the West) of the tarred N10. The road mainly serves the local farming communities. Despite it's ascent/descent range of 353 vertical meters, the average gradient is a leisurely 1:44 with the steeper sections being 1:20. The pass is not a tarred pass, nor is it on the N10 as indicated by several well respected websites.

This gravel road passes is fairly long at 20,8 km. It is (as the name suggests), virtually an extension of the Tarka Pass which ends where this pass starts. The road meanders on an East-West axis, through the mountains starting at an altitude of823m and traces the course of a small river past several isolated farms, before summiting at 1343m.

Telemachus Poort (also known as Modderpoort) is located near the tiny Eastern Cape town of Jamestown, about 60 km from Aliwal North. It is named after the Telemachusspruit which tracks the pass on the western side along its southern half. The poort is quite unusual in that it consists of two distinct sections; a “poort” section which follows the stream, and a “neck” section which climbs up a hill towards its summit on the northern side.

The road is in a good condition, and should present no problems for any vehicle in all weather conditions. There are only four corners on the pass, one of which is a big loop of 120 degrees, but this curve has a very wide radius and is easily negotiated.

 

This beautiful pass is cut into the side of a mountain, and angles down from a high plateau in the New England area to terminate at the historic Loch Bridge over the Kraai River. This part of the world is famous for its wonderful scenery, and in this case the pass also offers up spectacular views of the reverses and the rail bridge belonging to the now-defunct railway that was built through this gorge.

The road is in a mostly good condition and is suitable for all vehicles, except perhaps in very wet weather. The pass itself is fairly substantial, with a length of 3.6 km and a height difference of 172 metres. “Tier” translated from Afrikaans means “Tiger”, but, as everyone knows, there are no tigers in Africa. The word was often used in days gone by as a name for a leopard, so a correct translation of the pass name would be “Leopard Cliff Pass”.

This is a complex contour road offering four small passes along its 27 km length. The road generally remains at the 2600m contour level and the vast majority of the route comprises contour road driving as it follows the shapes of the hills and buttresses. The route is doable in a high clearance 4x2 with diff-lock, but when things get muddy or snowy, it is definitely a 4x4 route. Although the road gets quite rough in places, these don't last long and most of this route is Grade 1 to 2. The road connects the Tiffindell Ski Resort in the west with the Tenahead Mountain Lodge in the east, and provides a shorter, but slower alternative to the Naudes Nek Pass. Beyond Tenahead Lodge, the road connects at the Naudes Nek lookout point at 2500m ASL.

Although we have named this route the TTT  (Tiffindell-Tenahead Traverse) which aptly describes the purpose of the road, this is a more modern take on its routing. It's also referred to by the locals by three other names: The Cairntoul Road (named after a farm on the eastern side of the traverse); Die Patrollie Pad (The Patrol Road) and Die Grenspad (the Border Road). The road has been used for many years to patrol stock theft into Lesotho. There are several small patrol huts, linked with radio sets, which can be seen along the route. These are occupied by 'young local herdsmen' who keep an eye on the hillsides and relay any suspicious activity to the main SAPS base at Cairntoul, from where the heavyweights are dispatched on horseback or by 4x4.

This short, but scenic poort offers lovely, mountainous Karoo scenery on a very easy gradient of 1:124 with few dangers. The drive along the poort includes two river crossings. It ends in the north at the second crossing of the Kraairivier, the latter which should not be confused with the Kraai River near Barkly East. (Crows River). The little known poort lies on a farm road, the P1864, that parallels the R329 on its northern side for many kilometers and gives access to the well known Timbila Game Reserve as well as two other poorts in the area - Medenpoort and the much bigger Kamferspoort. The road is suitable for all vehicles in fair weather.

There is not much left of the old Van Ryneveld's Pass with most of it being either under the surface of the new road or under the sparkling waters of the Nqweba Dam. The 'new' pass which forms part of the R63 route, is just  2.1 km long and only displays an altitude variance of 40m. What this little pass lacks in vital statistics, it more than makes up in points of interest and lovely scenery.

You will be able to enjoy shady picnic spots, views over the dam, close up views of the old pass (built by Andrew Bain), a visit to the Gideon Scheepers memorial and gain access to the Camdeboo National Park. Andrew Bain started his road building career in Graaff Reinet where he first worked as a saddler and later gained experience as a road builder. His famous son, Thomas Bain was born here.

The original pass was named after one of the area's pioneer farmers - Marthinus van Staden, who was the first person to plot a rudimentary track through the Van Stadens River Gorge. By 1867 the Cape Government decided to rebuild the pass to acceptable standards for wagon traffic. The actual construction was managed by George Apsey from 1865 to 1867.

Over time the pass was modified and tarred in the 1950's. When the N2 was rebuilt and improved, a new bridge was built which would span the Van Stadens River gorge and in the process completely remove all aspects of a mountain pass. Similar changes took place at several big bridges along the N2, such as Storms River, Bloukrans and Grootrivier. It takes about 30 seconds to drive over the gorge on the N2 today, which is fine if youre in a hurry, but the charm of the old pass is still available to those with a some extra time to spare. The downside of the tall new bridge is that it saw its first suicide victim soon after being built. One suicide followed another and soon the new bridge became known as the Bridge of Death. Authorities have subsequently erected cages along both sides and a call centre is on standby to help desperately depressed people.

Whilst the old pass still holds its charm and allure, the new bridge casts a sombre mood on an otherwise beautiful river gorge.

This very small poort is located in an east-west running mountain range 22 km north-east of Willowmore (as the crow flies). The poort lies on private farm land, but a polite request to drive the little poort will be granted by the farm owner. Please close any farm gates. At 1,2 km, this poort is very short but nontheless displays typical poort characteristics as it crosses the small stream once near the northern end, then follows the western bank till the turn-around point, where you have to retrace your route back to the farmstead. The road is rough and very basic and not suitable for cars lacking ground clearance. This poort will typically only be driven by the more serious pass hunter. For the rest, cyber drive it here and forget about it.

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Mountain Passes South Africa

Mountain Passes South Africa is a website dedicated to the research, documentation, photographing and filming of the mountain passes of South Africa.
 

Passes are classified according to provinces and feature a text description, Fact File including GPS data, a fully interactive dual-view map and a narrated YouTube video.
 

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